What do professional movie critics and tween girls have in common? They all gave glowing reviews of Inside Out, the Disney-Pixar film that goes inside the mind of an 11-year-old girl named Riley that was inspired by director Pete Docter's own adolescent child and him wondering as dad of a tween, "What is going on inside her head?"
Inside Out features five emotions: Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). You can see more about the characters and voices here.
The movie opens nationwide today, is rated PG and is very unoffensive. While kids will be fine, parents should consider bringing tissues and possibly brace themselves for the impact this movie that calls itself "a major emotion picture" may have.
On Rotten Tomatoes, 99% of the reviews have been positive. Here are what a few of my favorite reviewers said.
From A. O. Scott, "Review: Pixar’s ‘Inside Out’ Finds the Joy in Sadness, and Vice Versa," The New York Times:
"'Inside Out' is an absolute delight — funny and charming, fast-moving and full of surprises. . . . The youngest viewers will have a blast, while those older than Riley are likely to find themselves in tears. Not of grief, but of gratitude and recognition. Sadness, it turns out, is not Joy’s rival but her partner. Our ability to feel sad is what stirs compassion in others and empathy in ourselves. There is no growth without loss, and no art without longing." - (This review is exquisitely written and well worth checking out.)
From Andrew Lapin, "From The 'Inside Out,' A Lively Look Inside A Young Mind," NPR:
"Above all, there is the film's stealthy, insightful approach to child psychology and its wonderful distillation of concepts that most filmmakers would never attempt to express in this medium. The movie is unabashed about its sentimentality, because it's teaching us about the raw power of sentiment: This is how memories are formed."
Joe Morgenstern, "‘Inside Out’ Review: Pixar’s Brilliant Life of the Mind," Wall Street Journal:
"As the action played out, my own feelings ranged from sheer Delight to Wonder tinged with Awe at the film’s ability to turn an abstract concept—the contending forces of our psyches—into a spectacle that’s as funny, stirring, unpredictable, exciting and riotously beautiful as it is profound."
From Common Sense Media, which says the movie is appropriate for children ages 6 and older and gives the movie its seal:
"Not only is Inside Out an engaging, endlessly inventive adventure with strong themes of friendship and acceptance, but it has real potential to help kids and parents navigate the powerful emotions that come with growing up. Kids who might not be able to put their increasingly complex feelings into words could use Riley's experiences for context ..."
Despite that glowing praise, we all know that kids can judge a movie far differently than the critics. Here are the thoughts of three tween girls after they saw the film this morning, who overall were happy moviegoers.
Emma, age 13, said that on a scale of 1 to 10, she gives Inside Out an 8.5.
"It's unique, and I liked that it was different. I also liked that it wasn't all about princesses. I'm over Anna and Elsa. It was nice to see middle schoolers in a movie - we don't usually get a lot of attention," she said.
Megan, age 12, said it was an 8.
"It's a really good, creative idea and the execution was really good, but the middle loses your attention a bit," she explained. She said she liked the animation and the personification of the characters, and added that she'd like to see more from Disgust because "she's a really fun character and felt that the filmmakers didn't take full advantage of her potential."
She said that she thought it was really easy to relate to Riley, the 11-year-old in the movie, and felt that every tween would connect to her on some level.
"They should definitely do a sequel!" Megan said.
Bella, age 12, gave the movie a 7.5 out of 10. "It was a little bit predictable, but it was cute," she said. Bella had not been impressed by the ads she'd seen for the movie, thinking that it made it seem like a little kid film, but said she liked it better than she thought she would.
Bella felt that it wasn't the best of the Pixar pantheon and that she liked Finding Nemo and the Toy Story trilogy better, and the other girls agreed but all said that they would recommend this one.
I know that most people probably stopped reading a while ago, but if you're still here, first let me say thank you and second, let me say that I really loved Inside Out, as a movie goer, as a parent and as a human who deals (not as well as I would like) with feelings and emotions.
I could gush about the sentiment of it, and will do so in a moment, but what I love best about this film is that I really think it is useful. I know that isn't what most people are hoping for as they purchase their popcorn, but I really do think that seeing this movie with my tween will benefit both of us.
Inside Out gives both parents and kids a framework for talking about emotions, and doing so in a way that's comfortable and even fun. It's certainly going to be less abstract to talk about Fear (the purple guy) and how he acted in the movie and how your child thinks he acts in their own head as opposed to sitting across from your 12-year-old and saying, "So, son, want to share your fears with me?"
"This movie is a love letter to our kids," said producer Jonas Rivera, and that love really shines through. I'm really grateful that the movie captures the trickiness of parenting a tween without slamming the age group as a whole. Tweens sometimes get a bad rap, but this movie promotes empathy for tweens, and everyone, really.
Seeing this movie as a parent is a very different viewing experience from the one our children will have. Take tissues.
I pulled myself together during the credits and was hoping for a funny scene at the end of them. There wasn't one, but there was a dedication at the end of them that just wrecked me:
"This movie is dedicated to our children. Please don't grow up. Ever."
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